The Camden Resolves,
The Grand Jury during the colonial times was, in many ways, the catalyst for change and a mouthpiece for the wishes of the citizenry in their dealings with the government. Their purview extended beyond the criminal statutes that encumber the calendar of today’s grand juries, and their wishes were relayed to the highest offices in the colony for action. In December 1774, the firebrand Justice William Henry Drayton stood before an elected group of jurists in Camden, SC, and delivered a speech on the Rights of Man under the Law that would be repeated in form throughout the back country. Taxation without consent was at the forefront of the argument in chief. In the end, the Grand jury submitted a “mini Declaration of Independence” to defend their Constitutional rights; “which are dearer to us than our Lives and Fortunes.” They went on to say that they were “Resolved to maintain our Constitutional Rights at the hazard of our lives and fortunes.”
The Camden Resolves were published in the South Carolina Gazette dated December 12, 1774 along with the listing of Patriot signers.
PRESENTMENTS OF THE GRAND JURY FOR THE DISTRICT OF CAMDEN.
1. We present, as a grievance, the extensive bounds of the Parish of St˙ Mark, which makes it difficult for the Church Wardens and Overseers of the Poor to collect the Poor Tax, and a great means to hinder the propagation of the Gospel in the back parts of the said Parish.
2. We present, as a grievance, that there is not a law to ascertain the prices of Entertainment at publick houses, there being a great number of them in Camden District, who frequently impose on strangers and travellers, by making them pay exorbitantly for what they stand in need of, to the great detriment of the poor.
3. We present, as a grievance of the most dangerous and alarming nature, the power exercised by the Parliament to Tax and to make Laws to bind the American Colonies in all cases whatsoever. We conceive such a power is destructive of our birth-rights as freemen, descended from English ancestors, seeing such freemen cannot be constitutionally taxed or bound by any law, without their consent, expressed by themselves or implied by their Representatives of their own election; a consent which the good people of this Colony never have signified, to be taxed or bound by laws of the British Parliament, in which they never have had any constitutional representation.
And whereas we rather choose to die freemen than to live slaves bound by laws, in the formation of which we have no participation; so now, that the body of this District are legally assembled, as one step towards the defence of our constitutional rights, which are dearer to us than our lives and fortunes, we think it our indispensable duty to the people of the District, to ourselves, the Grand Jurors for the body of the people, and to our posterity, thus clearly to express the sense of this large and populous District, touching our constitutional rights, and the very imminent danger to which they are exposed from the usurped power of the British Parliament, taxing and by law binding the Americans in all cases whatsoever; being resolved to maintain our constitutional rights at the hazard of our lives and fortunes, we do most earnestly recommend that this Presentment in particular be laid before our constitutional Representatives in General Assembly, who, we doubt not, will do all in their power to support us in our just rights.
And lastly, in testimony of the satisfaction we feel, and the high estimation in which we hold the charge given by his Honour the Judge, at the opening of the Court, and the principles of loyalty and liberty in which the same is manifestly founded; and also, that a lasting evidence may remain of that true and constitutional language, which it is the duty of every Judge to adopt, in the exercise of an office instituted solely for the preservation of the laws, we make it our request that his Honour will be pleased to direct the said charge to be printed and made publick, fully persuaded that every man will read it with applause who wishes a lasting security to the British constitutional establishment of civil and religious liberty; we also recommend the publication of these our Presentments.
MATTHEW SINGLETON, Foreman.
John Perkins, Sen˙